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Greece to wrap up search at train crash site, grief turns to anger

protesters clash with police during a demonstration after a train crash near the city of larissa, in athens
Protesters attack riot police officers as clashes take place during a demonstration in front of the parliament building in Athens

Rescuers continued digging through debris on Saturday at the site of Greece’s worst train crash but were expected to wrap up their search operation later in the day.

At least 57 people were killed and dozens were injured on Tuesday when a passenger train with more than 350 people on board collided with a freight train on the same track in central Greece.

The disaster has triggered an outpouring of anger and protests across the country, as well as a sharp focus on safety standards across the railway system.

A station master in the nearby city of Larissa who was on duty at the time of the crash was charged this week with endangering lives and disrupting public transport. The station master, who cannot be named under Greek law, appeared before a magistrate on Saturday.

His lawyer, Stefanos Pantzartzidis, requested an additional 24 hours to respond to the charges, saying he sought extra time after new information came to light concerning the case.

“We weren’t made aware of it until recently,” he said, adding that the importance of the information was such that a postponement was required. He was not more specific.

Outside the court building, people laid flowers and candles.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government has blamed the disaster on human error. Railway workers’ unions also say deficient safety systems and understaffing are widespread throughout the rail network.

The train, travelling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki, was packed with students returning after a long holiday weekend.

Police said 54 bodies out of 56 people reported missing by relatives had so far been identified – almost all from DNA tests as the crash was so violent. A 57th body has not been identified as no one has appeared so far to give a DNA sample.

Bereaved families have vowed to seek justice.

“It is a very difficult situation,” a relative told Greece’s Skai radio. “We will see how we will move (legally), we won’t let anything go, the families’ demand is that they don’t get away with it.”

Railway workers union have staged 24-hour walkouts since Wednesday. They extended labour action by 48 hours on Friday, demanding a clear timetable by the government for the implementation of safety protocols.

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